Facing a felony charge for a DWI can be frightening. Driving while intoxicated is a serious charge that can come with steep penalties. But if you're already facing additional criminal charges, or if you're facing additional charges related to the felony DWI charge, the consequences can be even more severe. In addition to steeper penalties, you may also face reincarceration for violating the terms of your bail or bond. That's why you need an expert in DWI defense and criminal law like Doug Murphy representing you every step of the way.
DWI Charges in Texas
In Texas, the law broadly defines driving while intoxicated. You can face arrest for DWI if:
- You are operating a motor vehicle in public,
- You have a BAC over .08%, or .04% if you hold a commercial driver's license, or
- You no longer have the normal use of your physical or mental faculties.
As a result, you can face a DWI even if your BAC isn't over the legal limit if the police subjectively decide that you are somehow otherwise impaired. Typically, a first DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 72 hours to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and additional administrative fines. However, if there are aggravating circumstances to your DWI such as an accident or death, you could face felony charges for a first DWI.
Felony DWI Charges
Felony DWI charges include a third or subsequent DWI, DWI with a child passenger; a DWI that involves a serious injury to someone else, known as intoxication assault; or a DWI that results in someone's death, known as intoxication manslaughter.
- Third or Subsequent DWI If you have two previous DWI convictions or a second DWI charge pending when you're arrested for another DWI, you could face felony DWI charges. A third DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony. With a conviction, you could face prison for two to ten years, up to $10,000 in fines, and mandatory administrative fines of $3,500 to $4,500.
- DWI with a Child Passenger If you're arrested for DWI with a passenger under 15 in the car, you can also face a charge for DWI with a child passenger. This charge is a state jail felony in Texas, and penalties include:
- Jail for 180 days to two years.
- A license suspension of at least 180 days.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- You'll face these penalties and those for a separate DWI charge if convicted.
In addition to jail time, fines, and administrative penalties for a felony DWI conviction, you could face other consequences, including:
- SCRAM bracelets: Frequently, the courts will order those convicted of multiple DWIs to wear a SCRAM bracelet, along with a rehabilitation program. A Secure Remote Autonomous Monitoring ankle bracelet is a remote monitoring device used to monitor the amount of alcohol in sweat through transdermal alcohol testing.
- Ignition Interlock Devices: This device is designed to keep intoxicated people from starting a vehicle. You have to blow into a device installed on the vehicle before it will start.
- Losing a Professional License: In many professions, particularly those in the health care field, the financial field, those working with children, and legal professions, you can no longer hold professional licenses after a felony conviction.
- Losing Custody of Your Children: In some cases, a felony conviction can result in changes to your visitation or child custody. The court will look at the “best interests of the child” in Texas when making custody decisions, and one criminal conviction, let alone two, can impact that decision.
- Losing Your Right to Own a Firearm: With a felony conviction, you can also lose your right to own or possess a firearm.
- Losing Your Right to Vote: If convicted of a felony, you can no longer vote in Texas. Once you complete your sentence, the state restores your voting rights.
Bail or Bond Conditions
If you're already facing criminal charges when the police arrest you for a felony DWI, you may face revocation of your bail or bond. That's why hiring an expert in DWI defense right away is essential. Bail or bond conditions, whether for a DWI or another crime, often include conditions such as:
- Getting in a fight or altercation,
- Getting stopped driving without an interlock device,
- Not showing up for a mandated treatment program or counseling,
- A second or subsequent arrest for a DWI, and
- Remaining free from arrest for another serious crime.
If you hire an attorney immediately, they can represent you in a bail or bond hearing after your felony DWI arrest.
Defending Felony DWI and Additional Charges
If you're facing a felony DWI, you may also be facing additional charges related to the DWI. For example, if the police charge you with intoxication assault, they will likely also charge you with DWI separately. In these cases, your DWI defense attorney will likely handle the defense of both charges together.
However, in some cases, you may already be fighting unrelated criminal charges and a felony DWI. These cases can be more challenging, requiring an expert in both criminal law and DWI defense to develop your criminal defense. A good attorney will examine every aspect of your case to determine if the traffic stop was legal, whether the police administered the BAC tests properly, whether the results were accurate, whether the police testimony was consistent with their reports, and whether you actually caused any accident involved.
- Illegal Stops Before pulling you over for a suspected DWI, the police must have reasonable suspicion that you are violating the law. The police have reasonable suspicion to pull you over if, considering the relevant facts and circumstances, an objective person would believe you were engaging in illegal behavior. This illegal behavior can be something as small as a traffic violation like speeding or failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. But if the police pull you over because of the make and model of your car or they don't like your bumper stickers, that's not a legal stop. An expert in DWI defense will understand how to use evidence such as police reports, dash cams, or police body cameras to challenge the legality of your stop.
- Challenging Field Sobriety Tests Once the police pull you over, they'll use a series of tests and interactions with you to determine if you might be intoxicated. But field sobriety tests can be notoriously unreliable and subjective. For example, being unable to balance on one foot may depend on your health or a medical condition. If you have an inner ear condition that prevents you from completing the task, the police could wrongfully assume you are intoxicated. A good DWI attorney will know how to challenge these subjective measures of your sobriety.
- Challenging BAC Results While you may think measuring blood alcohol content is an infallible and objective test for measuring intoxication, it isn't. People administer BAC tests, and people make mistakes. For example, a breathalyzer machine that isn't properly calibrated and cleaned can provide inaccurate results. A blood sample collected for a blood BAC test can be inaccurate if the collected doesn't properly handle or preserve the sample. Or the police may not be able to maintain a proper chain of custody if they fail to document everyone who handles your blood sample. An expert in DWI defense will know to look for these problems in the prosecution's case against you.
- Violating Your Constitutional Rights While the police must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, the standard to arrest you for a DWI is higher. The police must show that they had “probable cause” to arrest you. Meaning the facts and knowledge the police have are sufficient to “warrant a belief by a man of reasonable causation” that a crime is happening. If your attorney can establish that the police's basis for arresting you was an inaccurate BAC test or a false conclusion from a subjective sobriety test, the police may not have had probable cause to arrest you.
- Suppressing Evidence or Challenging Witnesses A good criminal defense attorney may often use a motion to suppress to exclude evidence or witnesses at trial. The motion to suppress is a tool to challenge the legality of evidence or testimony the state may have against you. If the police obtained evidence illegally, your arrest was unlawful, or the police failed to follow procedures, your attorney may challenge evidence or witnesses against you.
- Using Police Reports An expert in DWI defense may also be able to use police reports and other evidence to defend you from your felony charges. For example, if the police report indicates the police pulled you over for running a red light, but the police dash cam doesn't show you running a red light, your attorney can challenge the fundamental basis of the police traffic stop and your DWI arrest.
You Need an Expert to Fight Felony DWI Charges
If you're facing a felony DWI charge, along with other charges against you, the consequences can be serious. A conviction can result in a felony charge, but you may also face revocation of your bail or bond if you've violated the court's conditions for release. Moreover, you could face prison time and steep financial penalties. You need an expert who can help you immediately, like Attorney Doug Murphy.
Doug is an expert in both DWI defense and criminal law, holding Board Certifications in both of these specialties. Doug's Criminal Law Certification comes from the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. His DWI Board Certification comes from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Doug is only one of two attorneys in Texas who hold Board Certifications in both these specialties, making him uniquely qualified to handle your complex felony DWI defense.
Doug is also well-regarded by his fellow Houston DWI attorneys. As a result, U.S. News and World Report recently named Doug Murphy Lawyer of the Year by “BestLawyers in America” for Houston DWI defense for 2023. Doug and the Doug Murphy Law Firm team have a great deal of experience as both prosecutors and defense attorneys, so you know you're getting well-seasoned attorneys. If you're facing a felony DWI charge along with other charges in Texas, they can help. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm at 713-229-8333 or contact him online.